How important was the role of the leader in the rise to power of the Nazis in Germany On the 30th January 1933 Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Hitler came to power as the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, more commonly known as the Nazi Party. In the July election of 1932 the Nazis received the highest vote ever achieved by any party in Weimar History with 13. 7 million votes. This is a crucial point in history as it was Hitler who led the world into World War II which resulted in the death of 60 million people.
Many questions are asked as to how such a man could legitimately come to power and create a totalitarian dictatorship in a modern country such as Germany. One popular reason for Hitler coming to power is the role he played himself and the widespread appeal for the Nazis. Historian Feuchtwanger says: ‘’The personality of the Fuhrer became a significant historical factor. He had a combination of demagogic gifts and political instinct.
’’ Many believe it was the decreasing support for the Weimar Republic, which led to its collapse, helped Hitler take power.
Historian Ardagh backs this up by saying ‘’Gloom was such that already by the mid 1920s many Germans were losing faith in the very principle of parliamentary democracy; this was above all he cancer that killed Weimar… A growing number of politicians… came to feel that democracy was unworkable’’. The third reason commonly believed to have played a major role in the Nazis coming to power is the Miscalculation of the Conservative Elites.
Historian Salmon is a believer of this as he said: ‘’Nazism came to power as a result of a miscalculation by the conservative politicians and the military after a large number, but by no means a majority, of the electorate had put it in a position to contend for power. ’’ However, clearly the most important reason that allowed the Nazis to rise to power was the Weimar’s failure to deal with Germany’s economic problems which led to the Great Depression. Historian Holtfrerich rightly said ‘’The Nazi rise to power was essentially linked to the Great Depression which was a world-wide phenomenon and had little to do with the domestic conflict. ’ Hitler held fantastic election campaigns with his remarkable ability to sense the mood of the crowd in front of him and appeal to them. Not only did he inspire the people of Germany, he also inspired his fellow Nazis. During Nazi election campaigns huge Nazi rallies would take place in cities such as Berlin. Patriotic music would play as the SA paraded the streets in smart brown uniforms sporting swastikas. This gave the image of class and authority to those watching. Hitler would travel by aeroplane all over Germany to hold election meetings in what was known as Hitler uber Deutschland (Hitler Over Germany).
This was something no other politician had done. The ‘’Whistle Stop’’ campaign showed Hitler was up to date with the latest technology and was going to lead Germany into the future. It also meant he was able to gain support and votes from areas in Germany that had very little or no Nazi influence at all. The Nazi party had a widespread appeal as they promised to benefit all areas of society not just one. They promised the workers jobs and a fairer share of the national wealth. They promised the middle classes a strong government and improvements to the economy and promised to alleviate any other problems in society.
This gave them an advantage straight away as their opponents, the Communists, only appealed to one area of society. The Nazi party were also very effective at using propaganda. This job was delegated to Dr Josef Goebbels who famously said, ‘’If you tell a lie, tell a big lie and tell it often. People will believe you. ’’ This clearly shows that despite promising all they had to society, a lot of it may have been unrealistic to achieve and only promised to gain support. The Nazis were also adamant that they would destroy communism and this gained them support as many Germans hated communism.
In 1932 the Nazis received an astonishing 13. 7 million votes (33. 7%). This was more votes than any party had received in Weimar history. However not many of their polices had changed from 1928 when they only got 2. 6% of the votes. This shows that the Great Depression clearly had a bigger impact on the Nazis rise to power. Although Hitler was visibly a good leader, people clearly felt they had no choice but to turn to the Nazis as a result of desperation caused by the weak attempt by the Weimar Republic to run Germany. Many historians argue that the failure of the Weimar government was the main reason for Hitler rising to power.
Historian Ardagh says that “A growing number of politicians came to feel that democracy was unworkable”. The Weimar Republic had a lot of problems, even from when it was established in 1918. The first problem was that they started by accepting defeat in the First World War after signing the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler circulated that rumours that the ‘’November Criminals’’ had stabbed Germany in the back by signing the treaty, this is known as the Dolschstosslegende. This was effective for the Nazi party as it instantly turned the German population against the Weimar. The Weimar’s constitution was another problem they suffered from.
The use of proportional representation in elections meant that they were unable to build a strong government, only unstable coalitions and elections had to be held frequently. Democracy was beginning to get a bad image from this and people began to crave a strong leader to assert some authority in Germany once again. Another problem with the Weimar was that both left and right winged extremist groups were completely against them. This was on top of them not having support from either the army or the judiciary. This meant that they were left with very little support whatsoever and really had no hope.
In January 1919 the Spartacists revolted. The army silenced this revolt with brutality. However, when there was a right-wing revolt in 1920 the army refused to act on it. General Von Seeckt claimed ‘’Troops do not fire on troops’’. It was not just the army that favourited right-winged politics, the Judiciary was also against the communists. On average a left wing terrorist got fifteen years in prison for crimes of murder compared to the four weeks a right wing terrorist received. Another problem was the Weimar’s failure to deal with the problem caused by inflation spiralling out of control in 1923.
In 1924 a postage stamp was sold for more than a Berlin villa had in 1890. The lack of improvement to the economy was making the government increasingly unpopular. Eventually the problem was solved in 1924 by Gustav Stressemann who was a leading figure in German politics until 1929. This period is often referred to as the ‘’Golden Years’’ as it saw some good brought back to Germany as unemployment dropped and the economy grew. However it is argued that this was because of multiple American loans which were agreed in the Dawes Plan.
This may have periodically boosted the economy and morale in Germany but when the New York stock exchange crashed in 1929 the world went into recession which sparked the Great Depression. By 1932 unemployment reached six million and in desperation turned either to the Nazis or the Communists. This is clearly shown by the fact that in 1928 the Nazis only received 2. 6% of the votes but that figure grew to 37. 4% just four years later and 100,000 new members joined the Nazi party. Therefore the failure of the Weimar, especially the economic failure, is the more important than Hitler’s role in the Nazis rise to power.
This is something commonly believed by historians as Holtfrerich said ‘’The Nazi rise to power was essentially linked to the Great Depression which was a world-wide phenomenon and had little to do with the domestic conflict. ’’ Some Historians, such as Salmon, believe that the miscalculation of the conservative elites was the most important for the Nazis success. He explains that ‘’Nazism came to power as a result of a miscalculation by the conservative politicians and the military after a large number, but by no means a majority, of the electorate had put it in a position to contend for power. ’ In the July 1932 elections the Nazi party received 33. 7% of the vote, which equalled 230 seats in the Reichstag. Following this success Von Schleicher and Von Papen offered Hitler the position of Vice Chancellor in a coalition government. Hitler rejected the offer as he wanted to be chancellor and more Nazi Cabinet positions. This meant that a new election would have to take place. In the November elections of that year the Nazi vote dropped to 33. 1%, however Hitler was still offered the position of Chancellor with two Nazis in cabinet.
As Hitler was leader of the largest party in Germany, the conservative elites needed him in order to form a government because he had received the most votes. Von Papen who was vice Chancellor said “we’ve hired him for our act”. Even though this clearly did benefit the Nazis rise to power, none of it would have happened had the Weimar Republic managed to stabilise itself and gained support from the German people. Therefore the miscalculation of the conservative elites is not, like the role of Hitler, as important as the failure of the Weimar Republic.
In conclusion if it hadn’t been for the failure of the Weimar Republic Hitler would have had no chance in becoming Chancellor of Germany. Before the economy crashed the Nazis could not manage more than 2. 6% of the vote but the great depression, caused by the Weimar’s inability to deal with the economic problems, forced people to turn to either the Nazis or the Communists. Historian Laffan said ‘’the National Socialists came to power more because of their enemies’ weakness and failures than because of their own strengths. ’’ Although this was the stand out reason for the Nazis coming o power Hitler played a vital role in leading the party to success as well. He was an inspirational leader and without him it is argued that the Nazis may not have been so well supported. Historian Feuchtwanger says: ‘’The personality of the Fuhrer became a significant historical factor. He had a combination of demagogic gifts and political instinct. ’’ Although the collapse of the Weimar was the most important role in the Nazis coming to power, without Hitler it may have been the communists that people turned to in times of desperate need, not the Nazis.
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